Ford Escort Mexico Mk1

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The Escort was the right car at the right moment for Ford's Competition Department in Boreham, Essex. Famously, one morning in spring 1967, mechanic Bill Meade saw an Escort prototype on test and remarked to boss Henry Taylor, "Blimey one of those things would go like hell with a Lotus twin-cam in it". That remark led to the Escort twin-cam’s creation and the winning began in 1968. However, when it came to considering Ford's entries for the 1970 London to Mexico World Cup Rally, Ford driver Roger Clark suggested using the rally-proven heavy-duty Type 49 bodyshell, and replacing the powerful but troublesome Lotus engine with a simple reliable Cortina 1600GT unit, correctly reasoning that the 16,000 mile rally was more about endurance than out and out speed.

Hannu Mikkola and Gunnar Palm won the event in FEV 1H, the world’s most famous Escort, and Ford capitalised by launching the Escort Mexico road car six months later. Built at their new Advanced Vehicle Operations Centre in Essex, the Mexico was effectively, like FEV 1H, an RS1600 but with the complex and expensive engine replaced by a 1600 Kent Crossflow.

OYL 553L is a genuine AVO built Mexico and retains its original Type 49 bodyshell. From 1990 until rescued by Ant Anstead and his team from Evanta, it was stored in a garage in the South East, partially stripped and prepared for restoration. With help from Escort expert Chris Martin at Classic and Retro, Evanta have restored it to a very high standard in its original Sebring Red. In the tradition of the fast Ford they chose to subtly modify it as they restored it from a bare-metal shell.

The engine is built to 125bhp fast road specification by Ford performance legend Jeff Harris of Harris Performance Engines using a 234 cam, glorious authentic twin Weber 40 DCOE carburettors, a 105 Speed stainless manifold and exhaust, H&H electronic ignition, a super efficient ProAlloy radiator and Samco black silicone hoses. The original 3-rail gearbox was rebuilt by Klassic Transmissions. The suspension features AVO height adjustable front struts using their custom springs and dampers plus AVO rear shocks and Rally Design single leaf parabolic rear springs all fastened to the car through SuperPro polyurethane bushes. Wilwood vented front discs using forged 4-pot callipers and Goodridge hoses ensure the braking performance lives up to the rest of the car. It's finished off by genuine Revolution 4-spoke alloy wheels running the soft Nankang tyres so beloved of Escort enthusiasts, which give the car a superb stance when allied to a subtle lowering of the ride height. The interior has been completely re-trimmed by Aldridge Trimming.

Because of their high attrition rate in motor sport, genuine Type-49 AVO built Escort Mexicos are rare. This car's subtle modifications make it every Ford fan’s fantasy Escort Mexico made real, but crucially it retains the original car’s character. No expense has been spared on this build in order to capture for TV the building of the ultimate Escort Mexico.

Ford Escort Mk1 Mexico – statistics

Registration number: OYL 553L
Chassis number: BFATML00192
Engine Number: N/A
Production: 1972
Colour: Sebring Red
Specification: RHD, home market
Engine: 1670cc 4IL OHV (originally 1599cc)
Power: 86bhp@5500rpm (standard car)
Torque: 92lb.ft@4000rpm (standard car)
Body: Steel monocoque
Maximum speed: 99mph (standard car)
0-60mph: 10.7secs (standard car)

Production factory: Ford AVO Aveley Essex
Production: Nov 1970 - Jan 1975

Production vol: 10,352 (Mexico MX1)